When Apple first came out with Siri in 2011, I was floored by how much more advanced she sounded compared to the competition at the time. Coincidentally, that was the same time Sprint (my employer at the time) began carrying the iPhone. After we finished putting the display up in our store, it quickly became a hot spot for spending downtime – specifically so we could test Siri’s limits.
Siri ended up being a big factor in why I decided to buy my first iPhone. Well, that and iOS was, at the time, a much more stable experience than any of the Android devices I had used. But Siri in itself was an incredibly innovative feature that I just knew I would definitely use all the time. Once I had my 4S, however, I found that Siri wasn’t all that useful aside from the novelty of asking her goofy questions. Oftentimes she didn’t understand me or conducted web searches for things that weren't intended to be a web search. It didn’t take long for me to stop using Siri entirely.
I never really did get into Siri again before switching back to Android in 2013, which was about the same time that Google Now was released. I found Google Now to be an incredibly useful tool in many regards, but I mostly stuck to the visual aspects of the feature rather than using voice commands. The interesting thing was that I didn’t have a hard time with Google Now’s voice commands when I initially tested it out – at least not as often as I did with Siri. I just didn’t like talking to my phone.
Eventually, I made my way back to iOS because that’s just the kind of thing I do from time to time. Back with Siri, I found that Apple made some notable improvements as I tried once again to appreciate and employ Siri’s usefulness, but found myself turning off Siri after a couple of weeks once again because I just preferred to do everything myself.
Ultimately, I realized that I appreciate the privacy that scheduling my own calendar events, conducting my own web searches, and typing out my own text messages gave me. I didn’t have any kids asking me “Why are you meeting at such-and-such on Wednesday?” or “Why are you searching what side dishes go well with porkchops? Are we having porkchops for dinner? I don’t like porkchops,” or “You’re texting so-and-so? Can I talk to them?” I can silently instruct my phone to do whatever I need it to do in public without people overhearing whatever it is I’m doing. I resolved that I would probably never use a voice assistant no matter how stable it became. And that’s okay, because I never felt like I was really missing out on anything because of it.
Fortunately, thanks to new text options that have surfaced over the past year, I’m able to enjoy the fruits of AI assistants with some semblance of privacy still in-tact. Google introduced a text-based option for Google Assistant earlier this year, and Apple introduced “Type to Siri” in iOS 11, which users can find in the accessibility settings. Since then, I’ve started using AI assistants more often. In the end it only saves me a few steps and a little bit of time, but it’s nice to be able to hold down my home button, type something in, and (usually) have that be the end of things.
I think voice commands are a great feature that a lot of people find useful, but personally I prefer the text input methods that have been implemented recently. I’m glad that both are now an option.
Readers, what are your thoughts on smartphone virtual assistants? Do you use them regularly, and if so, do you tend to use voice commands or text commands to operate them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!